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There is increasing interest in Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition. Several sales organizations have bought 500 copies for their sales teams. Two other sales forces have booked me to speak to their teams about what we describe as competitive displacement.

The smart folks able to find a spot in the blue ocean that is all their own are fortunate to avoid competing for clients and sales. However, the advantage of not having to compete is fleeting, as others start to take a bite of the company’s revenue by winning customers away from these companies.

All of us are either in the blue ocean, surrounded by clownfish for the short time it might last, or gaining the large jaws and sharp teeth needed to take a bite out of competitors and paint the water red.

The Water Was Red When You Got There

In most industries, there are many more companies than are necessary, and many will struggle as demand for nearly everything falls as the Baby Boomers retire. There is no generation large enough to replace them, and, as globalization declines, many companies will find it difficult to acquire, retain, and grow their company and their revenue.

For most of your time in sales, you have experienced a growing population and greater demand. If you were not lucky enough to sell in the red ocean to this point, you may find it is much more challenging than the blue ocean.

Those of us who were lucky enough to have been thrown into the red ocean know nothing else. When every major company is already buying from one of your competitors, winning deals means stealing business. If this makes you a shark, know that every shark you encounter is trying to take what you have.

A Compendium of Sharks

As you get acclimated to the red ocean, it’s helpful to be able to recognize the different kinds of sharks that live there.

Nurse Sharks (Inbound Sharks): Some nurse sharks live close to the beach. They tend to hide under the rocks and prey on smaller fish. They are relatively safe to be around docile. You will never see a nurse shark try to take food from another shark. Many salespeople fall into this category because they lack the ability to take food away from other sharks.

Blue Sharks (Outbound Sharks): Blues are beautiful, graceful sharks. Blue sharks will bite you, and it won’t be pretty. They are not known to attack larger and more dangerous sharks, but they will try to take food from smaller or less aggressive sharks.

Mako Sharks (Self-Oriented and Pushy Sharks): A Mako shark makes other sharks nervous. They tend to be more aggressive than other sharks, and are also somewhat erratic. Once, I was in a shark cage near Catalina Island, and I was removed when a Mako showed up because it was too dangerous. The mako’s aggressiveness will often frighten the client they are trying to steal.

The Great White (Consultative Shark): This shark is a problem. It has a lot of rows of teeth, and when it takes a bite, the bluest part of the ocean will quickly turn red with the blood of the incumbent shark. This breed is almost certain to take your client away, biting you until you spill your blood in the red ocean and lose what was once your client.

You may believe the Great White is the apex predator, but it isn’t. Only one animal hunts the Great White:

Killer Whale (One-Up): Orca, the killer whale, hunts great whites, often in small packs. The orca rips out the great white’s liver, killing it. It seems to be a delicacy to these aggressive predators.

Does Your Blood Stain the Red Ocean?

You can live in the red ocean without contributing your blood. It isn’t easy to displace your competitors. To be the one that does so, you need to be a different type of salesperson, a great white at least, and an orca being the best.

In Eat Their Lunch, you will think about the value you create for clients in the sales conversation. Few recognize the need to start the conversation about the client’s strategic outcome, something you will not find in any other sales approach. You will also find that no other sales approach is built on capturing the client’s mindshare. Your mindshare is a proxy for your wallet share.

To steal your competition’s clients, they need to feel it is safer to work with you instead of their incumbent. Some of your competition is apathetic, entitled, and feels safe because they have a contract. These salespeople stop creating new value for their clients, opening the door to competitive displacements.

You want to create a red ocean without your own blood changing the color of the water. Instead, you want to take away what is now your dream client and watch your competitor sink to the bottom of the red sea.

A Future Epilogue

Our future in sales will not resemble the past. As sales leaders start to understand that creating more opportunities isn’t an effective strategy, they will turn their attention to acquiring their competitor’s clients.

Those who have adopted the strategies and tactics of displacement that will become increasingly important to reach your sales goals will have an advantage over those who believe the legacy approaches that have lost any efficacy they once might have had.

The future of sales is moving away from transactional approaches and towards greater value creation in the sales conversation. Many will continue doing what they have always done, without knowing why and how they are losing. The most important initiative for every sales organization and sales leader is increasing win rates by using a modern sales approach.

See Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition.

Post by Anthony Iannarino on November 24, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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